Take design up a level

Staircases are fundamental to the flow and functionality of a home. Richard Harding of British Spirals & Castings discusses what to consider when choosing a design for your property

Staircases are situated at the heart of many homes, and are often one of the first things you see when you open the front door. Despite their prominence, it’s surprising how often these features are almost an afterthought in the design process. By giving some careful thought to your staircase at the start of your project, you can not only achieve an aesthetic which is tailored to your taste, but also optimise the flow and sizing of the spaces across your home.

The most fundamental decision when selecting a staircase is its style and layout. This will impact both the footprint of the staircase, the size and the dimension of the opening needed on the upper floor. There are a range of staircase styles available which can suit different homes.


Straight staircases are the most common choice for homes of all sizes. Their long linear footprint makes them a good option for narrow halls, but they can equally work well as a statement piece when centralised in wider spaces.

Kited & combination

These add a quarter turn at either the foot or head of a straight staircase (or both). These turns reduce the linear length of the staircase – making them a good option for more rectangular hall spaces.

The quarter turns can also provide clear benefits for loft conversions, helping to minimise any loss of living space at the foot of the staircase and ensuring the upper steps run out into the centre of the attic, allowing you to maintain the minimum headroom of at least 2 metres beneath pitched roofs.


As their name suggests, these staircases incorporate a full half-turn at the mid-point of a straight staircase. In addition to creating a more rectangular footprint, this mid-level landing can also act as a resting spot for occupants or even a display area for favourite decorative pieces.


Winding around a central pillar, spiral stairs provide a solution when you need to keep the footprint of the staircase to an absolute minimum. This is not only beneficial when overall floorspace is limited, but also provides a great option if the staircase sits in an open-plan space, making a beautiful talking point.


Helical staircases feature a flowing curve but without a central pillar. This means the radius of the curve can be adjusted to your preference, either providing a gentle curve with a linear footprint or a tighter turn similar to a spiral design.

A bespoke manufacturer or joiner can also work with you to develop designs which may combine different elements of one or more of these styles. This can be particularly beneficial where you need to work around obstructions in an existing space such as the location of doors, fixed furniture or the pitch of a roof.

Fine-tuning the design

With each staircase layout, there is significant scope to tailor the design to ensure it works well within your home and meets your practical requirements. These include adjusting the width of the treads to provide more space for occupants to pass one another if needed. In most cases, you should plan for a clear tread width of around 800 mm as a minimum in line with building regulations. For staircases serving a single habitable room (such as a loft conversion) it may be possible to reduce this to 600 mm.

To ensure the staircase is safe and easy to walk up, it is recommended that the maximum pitch for straight stairs is 42 degrees. For spiral and helical staircases, the total measurement of two rises (step-up between treads) plus 1 going (tread depth) should generally be between 550 and 700 mm and should be identical all the way up.

Spindles, treads, and handrails can all be selected in a range of profiles and designs, providing the balustrade height is at least 900 mm and no gaps are large enough to allow a 100 mm sphere to pass through.

With a bespoke staircase, there is also a huge range of design options to add a personal touch to your chosen style. For materials, you can choose conventional timbers, a combination of timber and metalwork with integrated metal supports and balustrades, or go for a full metalwork staircase manufactured from a material like cast aluminium. This can add a more traditional or contemporary feel, depending on the design you choose.

The right staircase can really transform and elevate a home. By working with a bespoke manufacturer or joiner, you can ensure the finished staircase not only works within your home’s layout and usage but stands as a piece of personal design in its own right.

Richard Harding is the director of British Spirals & Castings